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Charles Edward (Wiwen) Nilsson


Charles Edward (Wiwen) Nilsson (1897 – 1974) Although born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1897, artist-jeweler-silversmith, Wiwen Nilsson is lauded today as one of Sweden’s giants of design. He is recognized worldwide for innovative, striking, functionalist, and geometric designs.

In his teenage years, Wiwen apprenticed and learned silversmithing by studying and practicing with his father, the gold and silversmith Anders Nilsson of Lund, Denmark. Wiwen also received additional training in Germany, Denmark, and France between 1913 and 1925. In 1927, he took over the operation of his father’s workshop in Lund.

Nilsson is primarily known for objects created in silver with a geometric, pure and austere form. Nilsson first presented his work at the Gothenburg exhibition in 1923 with a coffee service that was received by critics as “meaningless cone shapes.”

Undeterred, he entered pieces at the 1925 Paris exposition des Arts Decoratifs and won a gold medal for design. In 1926, he began working for Georg Jensen.

Nilsson’s biggest break came in 1930 when his bold and innovative modernism received public acclaim at the Stockholm Exhibition. Nilsson is now widely considered the father of Modernism in Swedish jewelry.

In the decades that followed his breakthrough in Stockholm, his creations included both secular and sacred silver forms that reveal his modernist bent. Critics view his work that utilize modernist and minimalist geometric planes and surfaces as a search for aesthetic values. His modernism also reveals Nilsson’s search for a material’s intrinsic rhythm.

During the 1940s, Nilsson operated a store in New York. He is well-known for his silverware, tableware, and, of course, his jewelry. In 1950, Nilsson’s style evolved to naturalism with Japanese influences.

Nilsson also made the gilded shrine that was a gift to Sweden’s King Gustav VI on his 80th birthday. His works also include the bishop’s crosier in Lund and the seal of the University of Gothenburg that he made in collaboration with artist Nils Wedel and remains as the University’s logo.

Many of Nilsson’s works are represented at Sweden’s National Museum and the Röhss Museum. A permanent exhibition of his creations are on permanent display at Kulturen.

Wiwen Nilsson is one of the 20th Century’s most respected silversmiths both in Sweden and internationally. His works often turn up at auctions where they can command very high prices. Nilsson’s works are also shown in many of the world’s major museums’ decorative arts collections. Wiwen Nilsson’s work is highly valued and widely collected throughout Scandinavia and the world.

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